CLEVELAND -- A save in baseball is generally defined by a three-run lead in the ninth inning, or a situation where a closer enters with the potential tying run on base, at the plate or on deck. For Jose Valverde, however, a protecting four-run lead has frequently been part of the job description this year.
Now that the Tigers are heading into the final days of a playoff race, manager Jim Leyland wants to be consistent about it. With four-run leads, he plans to go to setup man Joaquin Benoit in the eighth inning and Valverde in the ninth when they're available.
Benoit was set to be rested Saturday after pitching on three of the previous four days. Valverde was available.
"You can't fool around this time of year," Leyland said. "Stuff happens fast. I mean, you're ahead, 4-0, you get the first two outs in an inning, a guy walks and a guy bloops a single, you've got some power hitter up there and all of a sudden, it's 4-3.
"I feel comfortable using those other guys [in the bullpen]. It's just that [Benoit] is the setup guy and [Valverde] is the closer. If I don't feel it's totally a comfortable situation, then I'll use them."
Valverde has 28 appearances in non-save situations this year, compared with 34 opportunities. In the non-save situations, he has allowed 17 runs (12 earned) on 26 hits in 26 innings for a 4.15 ERA. In save situations, he's 2-1 with a 3.18 ERA, allowing 25 hits over 34 innings.
Some of those non-save appearances this year have come when Leyland has had Valverde warming up with a three-run lead before the Tigers added on runs in the eighth inning.